The timing of his resurgence is just right for PSG, which faces Dortmund next Wednesday in the second leg of the Champions League's last 16. PSG trails 2-1 from the first leg. Mbappé had a poor game in Germany and was called out by some PSG fans at the next game.
They held up a banner with three sentences. The first praised former club stalwarts: midfielder Rai, winger David Ginola and fearless defender Antoine Kombouaré. They played for PSG in the 1990s and are still hugely popular among fans for their talent and work ethic.
The second sentence was a blunt message addressed to Mbappé, Neymar, and captain Thiago Silva. It asked if they had “The Fear of Winning?” The third was an expletive imploring them to show more courage.
PSG's fans were hugely disappointed by the performance in Dortmund on Feb. 18. Even PSG coach Thomas Tuchel said some players showed fear in that game. Mbappé responded to the banner on his Instagram account with the words “Scared to Win?”
He then snubbed PSG's fans last weekend. When the rest of the team went to applaud supporters following the 4-0 home win against Dijon, he instead went straight to the dressing room. But the criticism seems to have stung Mbappé back into top form.
His work rate was exemplary against Dijon, and on Wednesday he scored a hat trick in a 5-1 win at Lyon to help his side reach the French Cup final. The second goal was typical of the Mbappé who burst onto the scene with Monaco as a teen in 2017 and then helped France win the 2018 World Cup, scoring in the final.
It was a surging run from deep inside his own half, leaving Lyon defenders trailing with his astonishing pace, and then using excellent technique to position himself before finishing calmly. It was the 21-year-old's seventh career hat trick and took his PSG tally to 90 goals in just 119 games since joining in the summer of 2017 in a deal worth 160 million euros ($179 million).
AWAY BAN BACKFIRES Marching swiftly down a city street, some with their faces covered, around 100 Lyon hooligans turned around the corner into a narrow side street. It was late last Saturday night. There, waiting for them some 50 meters away, were a similar number of ultras from bitter local rival Saint-Étienne.
There was a brief standoff. Then, amid a cacophony of smashing glass, thrown objects and guttural roars, the two groups launched into each other for a violent clash. The skirmish left nine fans injured and three needing hospital treatment for head injuries. One video showed a Saint-Étienne fan struggling to sit up, moments afterward, blood gushing from his head after being beaten on the ground.
How did this happen? Saint-Étienne's fans are banned for matches in Lyon, and vice-versa. This has been the case for several years. Annoyed at missing out again on their biggest game of the season, one of Saint-Étienne's fan groups announced on social networks they would make the short 60-kilometer (37-mile) trip to Lyon. The “Magic Fans” group even announced what time they would arrive on Saturday evening.
The ensuing confrontation, between two of the most fiercely opposed sets of fans in France, seemed inevitable and even prearranged. Even more so given the almost even numbers and the precise arrival of Lyon's hooligans.
By banning away fans to prevent trouble inside stadiums, the league perhaps has opened itself up to further confrontations if other fan groups arrive the night before games. The ban on Saint-Étienne's fans went into effect at midnight Saturday, in line with keeping them away from Sunday's game, but they arrived on Saturday evening.
The fans also had no police escort for their arrival, as would have been the security protocol if they had been allowed to travel for a league game and arrived on routes known to authorities. The result was a ferocious fight on a public street on a busy weekend, damaging surrounding property in one of the city's most vibrant restaurant areas.
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports